Spousal support, as it is now commonly called, used to be known as "alimony." Spousal support is not mandatory in most states but can be ordered by a judge under certain circumstances.
If a spouse will face hardships without financial support, spousal support should be considered. The deciding factor for spousal support is the need to maintain the spouse at his or her customary standard of living. In other words, the law recognizes a husband or wife should not be forced to live at a level below that enjoyed during the marriage.
However, other factors also need to be considered. For example, spousal support should most likely not be considered if:
- The marriage was for a short duration (less than two or three years), and
- Both spouses are employed and self-sufficient.
This does not mean the parties cannot agree on spousal support. Spousal support has variable timeframes. It can be (1) for an unlimited period, (2) subject to the death or remarriage of the recipient spouse, or (3) fixed to end on a specific date.
Child support payments do take priority over spousal support. There is no firm dollar figure for spousal support. The amount should be decided by both parties. Some common ways of calculating spousal support are to take up to 40% of the paying spouse's net income (post-child support), less 50% of the amount of the supported spouse's net income (if he or she is working).
Spousal support can be waived by the recipient spouse. However, the waiver should be in writing and signed by both spouses.